2004 Season Review: D-line

With the Dolphins' dismal 2004 season now over, we take a look back with a position-by-position evaluation as well as a look forward to what the offseason might bring. Today we examine the defensive line.

Overview

There were two major stories along the defensive line in 2004, and neither was particularly good. The first had to do with end Adewale Ogunleye and his contract situation. The 2003 team MVP was a restricted free agent, and he simply refused to sign the Dolphins' tender offer because he wanted a long-term deal. He got that long-term, but from Chicago, and that came after he was traded for wide receiver Marty Booker and a third-round pick. The other big story was the injury problem at tackle, where starters Larry Chester and Tim Bowens both missed most of the season because of injuries. That left the Dolphins with smaller defensive tackles to play in a scheme designed to have huge guys in the middle to free up the linebackers. The end result was the Dolphins' run defense finishing 31st in the league, the franchise's worst showing ever. As for the loss of Ogunleye, the Dolphins' sack total went down dramatically after he left.

Jason Taylor: The only Dolphins player selected to the Pro Bowl, Taylor had another very good year. The sacks were hard to come by early in the season, but Taylor usually was a factor nonetheless.

David Bowens: He really didn't do that much in the early part of the season but really picked up his game down the stretch. Maybe he finally got back to full speed after a knee injury that cost him the beginning of the 2003 season.

Jeff Zgonina: Called upon to start after the injuries at defensive tackle, Zgonina turned in a pretty good season. But he just didn't have the required size for the Dolphins defense.

Bryan Robinson: The Dolphins picked up this veteran after he was waived by Chicago with the idea he could help either at end or tackle, but they probably didn't envision him starting inside. Robinson is even lighter than Zgonina and that made him a bad fit for the Dolphins defense.

Tim Bowens: He had problems with his back from the start and neither had a chance to make any kind of impact.

Larry Chester: Chester came into the season with high hopes because he had lost some 40-50 pounds, but he was gone after the first series of the second game, the Sunday nighter at Cincinnati.

Jay Williams: Williams did what he has done since coming to Miami, which is to say provide great backup work as a third-down inside pass rusher.

Dario Romero: He's another solid backup inside, but he also lacks the bulk to be a great run stuffer.

Mario Monds: Picked up midway through the season, he didn't make much of an impact.

Josh Shaw: He barely got any playing time after being signed. His biggest claim to fame so far is being the only Dolphins player who played under Nick Saban in college.

Looking ahead

There is uncertainty everywhere with a new coach in charge, and one of the questions is the type of defense the Dolphins are going to play. Of the group that ended the 2004 season, one would think that Taylor, David Bowens, Zgonina and perhaps Chester are locks to return in 2005. Jay Williams is scheduled to make around $900,000 next season, and that's pretty good money for a backup. As for Tim Bowens, the big issue is his back and also a sizable salary for a player who has begun to break down. There could be big changes along the defensive line in 2005.


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